What Sylvia Plath Taught Me



Buy an electric oven?


I am so pleased at the complete lack of suicide jokes. It turns out Plath wrote about other things too. Who knew?


That’s lovely! I love Plath so much. Her work was so beautiful and I’m glad to see we can understand writing as labor through her works.


In The Bell Jar Esther Greenwood was terrified she’d flunk chemistry, so she convinced the faculty to let her audit the class because she’d aced everything else. She then “sat back enjoying the bright lights and the colored fires and wrote page after page of villanelles and sonnets.”

I don’t know if this is true–the novel is only semi-autobiographical, after all, but I love the idea of Plath doing that. And I’m also pretty damned impressed at the idea of anyone writing multiple villanelles.

For the record, your comment wasn’t visible when I made mine. And yes, my comment was a joke, but it was also deadly serious: Depressed people should probably not purchase gas ovens, handguns, large quantities of sleeping pills, or other convenient tools that might lead them into temptation in a moment of weakness.

One of the often-ignored points about gun violence in America is that half of the victims are suicides, which is a big part of why having a gun in the home is statistically linked to a 3-fold increase in suicide risk. As far as ovens go, Britain dramatically decreased rates of suicide-by-oven when coal gas was replaced with natural gas.

So in all seriousness, depressed poets should buy electric ovens.

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My wife’s a fan of hers, we visited her grave up in Heptonstall (not far from the Brontës in Haworth).

Any idea why she’s buried there though? What’s her connection with the area?

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Thanks for sending me to the bookshelf to find my copy of Rough Magic by Paul Alexander. Heptonstall was where Ted Hughes’s parents lived. Plath and Hughes spent a fair amount of time with them there, and Ted Hughes also bought a house of his own there after Plath’s death.

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Ugh. So he dominated her right through the end.

He also burned her last journal (he said he didn’t want their children to read it), and dramatically changed the order of poems in her book Ariel. He also removed twelve poems and added twelve others that were written later. So he kept on even after the end.

I love Sylvia Plath. It will not shock anyone to know that I adored her as a teen, especially as I had a tendency toward depression - she seemed to be giving voice to my most private thoughts - but going back and reading The Bell Jar later as an adult, her use of language was extraordinary. She is still one of my all time favorite writers.

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